Archive for May, 2008

A Rabbit and Three Containers of Milk

May 22, 2008

Q. Are poets better than painters?
A. Who cares, a clever painter can slowly poison you with cadmium and cobalt, probably at the same time.

Where do paintings live?
An easier question is where to poems live?  Poems live in words, and some how words exist outside of our reality (right?).  Every time you read a poem it is the poem.  The poem is in a book, a person is saying the poem, the poem is on a calendar.  It is all the same poem.  The poem lives in the words and not really in a place.  You can picture the poem, but you do not have to picture its location, because the poem is its location.

But what about paintings?
I hate to think my favorite Rothko is rotting on a conservator’s table, I don’t want to think about a sleazy stockbroker hoarding a beloved Baldessari, I never want to think of a page in a book when I think of Anselm Kiefer.  When I think of paintings I never think of location or space, it is often too sad.  I think the only time I can really be happy thinking about a painting is when I am in front of that painting, when I am painting, or when I am too distracted to think about where that painting is.

Paintings shouldn’t really be anywhere.

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Rabbit’s Milk

May 17, 2008

When something is empty I guess it is ok to stick it under a flowering plant.  I guess that is ok.

I am really happy with the way this painting turned out.  And I really am happy I took a milk jug, cut it in half and made a template out of it.  It has a really nice shape that sort of mirrors the rabbit.  At least size wise, and ear shape wise (negative space).  I also like the discarded element they bring.

Rabbit under Rhododendron

May 10, 2008

I spend a lot of time walking and running along roads, and most of the time I find some kind of dead animal (usually cats, birds, dogs, skunks or opossums although for a while there I was seeing cow heads (3) but that seemed very unusual) and a lot of garbage.  In Southern Oregon these animals were usually in the middle of the road flattening out, or off to the side in an irrigation ditch.  Now that I live on the coast I seem to find a lot of animals under these large hedges that sort of look like rhododendron bushes without flowers.

The strange thing is that unlike Southern Oregon where the animals seemed to disintegrate quickly (due to cars or being washed away) these animals seem to sit for awhile (one cat in particular has been down the street for over two week, he just seems to go a little farther and a little farther under the hedge).

In a sad way I like the holding pattern these animals are in, they are so close to the road but not going anywhere, and if they are hiding from something they are not doing a very good job (obviously).  I think I am going to paint rabbits in and under hedges (I made them rhododendron because I like that better, more romantic or something) along with some garbage (nothing quite says pathos like an empty 2 liter soda bottle).

Abstract painting vs Mathematical abstraction

May 3, 2008

It should come as no surprise that as a reference librarian I come into contact with a lot of books.  As a curious person I often find myself thumbing through these books long after they have met the needs of my patrons.  One interesting book that I recently found myself reading was Carl Boyer’s classic A History of Mathematics. I wouldn’t recommend reading it cover to cover, it is quite a large book, but by just glancing through it I read some really interesting ideas.

One area I found to be particularly interesting was the relationship between abstraction and mathematics.  From what I read, it seems that the success (or rather ability to handle more and more complex problems) of a mathematical system is somehow proportional to its level of abstraction.  In other words the more detached mathematics is from the real world, the more complex and wonderful the ideas it can produce, and (oddly enough) the more useful it becomes.

Here is kind of a fun quote from Eric Temple Bell that kind of sums this up:
“The longer mathematics lives the more abstract — and therefore, possibly also the more practical — it becomes.”

The use of the word abstraction seems fairly consistent in mathematics, and is characterized by its removal from the real world.  This made me think of the way abstraction is used in painting.  Often when people talk about abstract painting they describe the “faithfulness to the material” the “use of form/color/harmony/etc” or the relationship between the “stated/unstated”.  And while these terms are abstract in a sense, they are not really that far removed from the everyday.  If the abstract nature of the painting can be described in terms that can be applied to the concrete world, what is so abstract?

This seemed a lot headier before I put it in writing, so I will go on.  To be fair, talking about mathematical concepts in natural language does reduce there abstraction, however, many mathematical concepts can only be expressed in terms of mathematics.  Are there “things” happening in painting that only can be described within painting?  Or are color/form/etc the only abstract “things” that are going on?  And if so is it a misuse of the term abstraction?
I am not even sure what I am talking about anymore (not in a good way).